In recent years there has been more and more evidence illustrating that athletes have a higher risk of tooth decay and oral health problems. A 2014 study states that athletes have a higher risk for dental erosions, caries (cavities) and changes in their saliva. The study also found that there is a correlation between how often and how vigorously an athlete worked out and their susceptibility to tooth decay.
Some have speculated that athletes’ consumption of sports drinks could be the reason for their poor dental health, but it seems as though the changes in their saliva may be the root cause.
When someone exercises for a prolonged period of time, their mouth tends to become dry. Saliva washes away bacteria from your teeth all day long, so when it is absent, the bacteria sticks around and can start to create erosion.
The study also notes that there was a change in the saliva’s chemical composition when an athlete worked out. The pH level rose, and a higher pH in saliva is often associated with plaque and tartar buildup.
Most recently, a study was done on the oral health of professional soccer players. The study found that 40% of the players had cavities, and more than half had dental erosion. Some of the players even stated that their poor dental health has effected their performance on the field.
This study not only highlights the need for better oral health care in professional soccer, but for anyone who exercises more than the average person. The average world class athlete trains for about 20 hours a week, and some in the U.S. train for around 12 hours a week. A high school or college athlete here in Manchester, NH can easily train for the same amount of time during their sports season.
It’s important for student athletes to pay extra attention to their oral health just as professional athletes should.Your dentist and hygienist should know about your day to day routine and how that can affect your teeth. Everyone’s mouth is different, and studies like these show that athletes need to pay even more attention to how they are taking care of theirs.